EMC World kicks off with cloud backup and cheaper flash arrays

The show is likely to be EMC's last before it's part of Dell

EMC is going back to basics -- but for a new generation of users -- on the first day of EMC World on Monday.

This year’s annual user conference will be the last for EMC as an independent company, assuming Dell's pending US$67 billion acquisition goes through later this year as planned. Michael Dell will join EMC's Chairman and CEO on stage during the Monday keynote session.

But EMC’s core storage business is likely to stay much the same in the short term, because it complements Dell, said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Peters.

“Clearly, Dell is buying a bigger and better storage company,” Peters said.

EMC, a diverse federation of businesses, is kicking off the conference with a new backup offering and a storage array priced for mid-sized enterprises. Backup and arrays have been EMC’s bread and butter for years. The modern twists here are cloud and flash.

The company is launching Virtustream Storage Cloud, a service designed for seamless backup and data tiering from EMC gear in enterprises. It’s meant as an alternative to public-cloud storage services such as Amazon S3.

The advantage of Virtustream Storage Cloud is that EMC users could take advantage of it without buying a cloud gateway from another vendor and signing a contract with yet a third company, the service provider, said Jeremy Burton, EMC’s president of products and marketing. EMC would supply the gear on premises, the backup software, the cloud storage and the service and support.

Enterprises could back up older data from their own arrays to the service or just make the cloud a less expensive tier for “cold” data in primary storage. Less-used data on arrays at the customer site would automatically migrate to the cloud.

There’s a lineup of EMC products that are ready to work with the Virtustream cloud. They include the EMC Data Domain and EMC Data Protection Suite backup systems and the VMax, XtremIO and newly announced Unity arrays. EMC Isilon NAS (network-attached storage) can archive less-used data based on Isilon Cloud Pools policies.

Also on Monday, the company is unveiling EMC Unity, an all-flash array designed primarily for small and medium-sized enterprises and departments.

Flash storage can save enterprises space, power and cooling compared with using spinning hard disks, but there’s still a cost premium for flash that makes it more attractive to bigger enterprises than to smaller companies. EMC says it wants to attract smaller customers to flash.

An all-flash Unity system with 75TB of capacity will cost about US$18,000, EMC says. (Hybrid configurations will start below $10,000.)

The all-flash pricing may well determine the system’s success, analyst Peters said. Most smaller enterprises don’t actually need the added performance of all-flash storage, but they might jump on the shiny new technology for the right price, he said.

EMC sees Unity as the eventual replacement for its VNX arrays, and its name is fitting. The VNX line has evolved over the past several years and is now available in all-flash configurations, but at heart it’s an aging platform that combines two even older systems: EMC’s Clariion SAN (storage area network) technology and Celerra NAS controller.

Starting fresh with a new design, Unity will be faster than VNX and take up less space. That 75TB all-flash configuration will be two rack units high (1.75 inches, or 44.5mm) versus 7U for VNX, Burton said.

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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